Saturday, September 13, 2014

Playing with the parameters

I'm trying to find a way to make what I feel is an important point about online course design. First up, as I've used the word "parameter" in the title, it might be useful to define it.

1. A numerical or other measurable factor forming one of a set that defines a system or sets the conditions of its operation.
2. A limit or boundary which defines the scope of a particular process or activity.
Synonyms include: framework, variable, limit, boundary, limiting factor, configuration, specification, criterion, guideline.

Especially but not exclusively, boys learn by testing the boundaries.

Back in the day we built box carts and raced them down the hill. Social conditions prevailing at the time facilitated this: playing in the street was the norm; bobbies were on foot and basically friendly; the occasional broken collar bone was not interpreted as parental neglect.

Onset of speed wobble, the velocity at which the friction brake became ineffective, and the point at which the unsprung vehicle became airborne over bumps marked the safe operational envelope of the box cart. Optimising the design and build of the box cart (combined with fearlessness) won races. Later we graduated to motorbikes. Our grown up heroes were racing drivers and test pilots.

All very amusing, but how does it apply to online course design?


Test each idea you have for an online course design using the following...
  1. Does the student have a project (or model)?
  2. Does the student have access to the project (or model) controls?
  3. Does the student have access to peer reviewers?
This idea that learners (kids or adults) can learn by their mistakes in a supportive community of learners goes by many names: social constructionism; social learning; learning by doing; learner agency; locus of control. Whatever we call it, it's a good thing and it's the way to go. Without exception.